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David Markson, 1927-2010: David Markson, who was called "the best writer you've never heard of" enough times that at some point you may have heard of him, died this weekend at the age of 82. He was often called a "writer's writer," but in the very best way he was really a "reader's writer": his stories were filtered through a life of reading, and constructed from the shards of what he'd found. He managed to actually fulfill, brilliantly, an idea that many readers have likely had: turning the notes of a commonplace book into living fiction (Wayne Koestenbaum called his novel Vanishing Point, which he adored, "simply a list of outrageously pathetic facts about artists and writers"). Markson deserves a far better tribute than I'm able to give him right now, but many fans and friends (readers often became both) are doing just that: you can begin with Sarah Weinman, Ed Champion, Kimberly Ann Josephine (who worked at the Strand, where Markson long prowled the aisles), and Bookforum, which points, among his many interviews, to this one on his last novel, The Last Novel, with Bookworm. A.D. Jameson's tribute is particularly moving:

Wittgenstein’s Mistress taught me that a novel could be entirely its own thing, its own invention, and yet remain accessible—could even be immediately familiar. The author could simultaneously invent a new form and perfect it, then teach the reader from the very first paragraph how to read it.

"The lure of the list is deeply ingrained": New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman explains the thinking behind the magazine's would-be generation-defining 20 Under 40 list (which we plumbed last week).

Free Tanner: As a "gift to her fans," Stephenie Meyer has made her new novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, available to read for free from now through July 5. (Note to e-readers: this isn't a free download, just a free reading.)

92 Days of Summer: The LA Times seems to predict that readers can get through about .65 books a day on their summer vacations--they've rounded up 60 picks to take you through Labor Day, including some of our own hopefuls for the coming months: Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story, Rob Sheffield's Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, and Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell. 

Moving and shaking: Is a book excerpt in Inc., giving the backstory of the sale of Zappos to Amazon in 2009, what sent Delivering Happiness, the new memoir by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, to #1 on our overall top 100 (and high on our Movers & Shakers list too) this morning?

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Comments (2)

Thanks, Harold. You are so right that we've had the first Twitter novelist with us all along, and he had no idea what Twitter was. Makes me feel a little better about the prospects for Twitter lit. But who needs the web when you have the Strand?

Posted by: Tom | Wednesday June 9, 2010 at 12:44 PM

The incantatory nature of David Markson's prose was so seductive. He wasn't the first to try such brief entries based on variations on fact and anecdote but he seemed more generous to personal and collective memory than most others, with little neurotic backwash on the page. When I off-handedly suggested to him once that he might be taken up by a Google generation accustomed to three- and four-line reading, he laughed, since, computer-less, he was unaware of any aptness to the comparison. I consider myself lucky to have a full set of his books, and bravo to Dalkey and Shoemaker Hoard for keeping them available. There is a wonderful passage in Proust's "The Prisoner" in which, after the writer Bergotte dies, his memory is kept alive by the light shining on his books in a bookshop window. One would hope such a thing happens with David Markson this week.

Posted by: Harold Augenbraum | Wednesday June 9, 2010 at 11:13 AM

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